accelerateSC Task Force Holds Last Meeting – Issues Final Recommendations, Governor McMaster Extends State of Emergency Another 15 Days, DEW Begins Issuing Third Iteration of CARES Act Unemployment Benefits

 

Email to COVID-19 Mailing List: May 28th

Today’s COVID-19 business information compiled by your SC Chamber Team includes: accelerateSC Task Force Holds Last Meeting – Issues Final Recommendations, Governor McMaster Extends State of Emergency Another 15 Days, DEW Begins Issuing Third Iteration of CARES Act Unemployment Benefits

ICYMI:  Today, South Carolina and North Carolina Chambers jointly hosted a call with US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler. The EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released updated guidance to help facility operators and families properly clean and disinfect spaces. Developed in concert with The White House, the guidance provides step-by-step instructions for public spaces, workplaces, businesses, schools, and homes. It is in line with the “Opening Up America Again” guidelines


1. acclerateSC Task Force Holds Last Meeting – Issues Final Recommendations

Today, accelerateSC Task Force Executive Director James Burns presented the final task force recommendations to Governor McMaster and the group. The Task Force, which was created by Governor McMaster on April 20th, 2020, held 15 meetings (including subcommittee meetings) and finished its work in just over a month. A few of the highlights from the presentation and report are below:

  • SC Chamber’s COVID-19 Business Survey informs work of the committee and final recommendations:
    • James Burns stated that the data from our survey, which was released shortly after the creation of the task force, helped the Task Force understand what real people and businesses are thinking and helped drive the group’s decision-making throughout the process.
  • Liability protections a priority of the task force:
    • Recommendation 4 of the final report states that businesses and healthcare providers urgently need liability protections: “These protections are needed at the state and federal level to cover potential state and federal claims and should be temporary. The United States Congress is considering legislation to protect businesses from liability. Governor McMaster cannot limit liability by Executive Order, and it is incumbent on the General Assembly to take up this issue and consider appropriate legislation.”
    • SC Chamber’s best practices guide,  “Business in the Era of COVID-19: A Guide for Moving Your Business Forward was also included in Recommendation 4 as a “helpful guide for businesses to use as they move forward in the era of COVID-19” to manage liability risks.
  • Funding for the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund and recommendation of broadband:
    • The Resources subcommittee proposed recommendations for allocating the $1.9 billion in federal CARES Act money for SC. The recommendations included some of the SC Chamber’s top priorities:
      • $500 million for replenishing the State’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund
      • Over $100 million for broadband/internet accessibility
        • $250,000 for a statewide broadband plan
        • $80 million for broadband infrastructure
        • $20 million for statewide hotspots

With the work of the Task Force now complete, we expect Governor McMaster to quickly finalize his recommendations to the General Assembly about how to spend the $1.9 billion in CARES Act funds, in anticipation of legislators’ return in mid-June.


2. Governor McMaster Extends State of Emergency Another 15 Days

Yesterday, Governor McMaster issued Executive Order 2020-38, which extends the current State of Emergency for another 15 days. A state of emergency in South Carolina is only active for 15 days. The new order states that because the state “must continue to take all necessary and appropriate actions in coping with and mitigating the evolving public health threat and other impacts associated with the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (“COVID-19”). The State must remain focused on facilitating and encouraging economic recovery and revitalization in a safe, strategic, and incremental manner,” the State of emergency should continue. This most recent order will expire on June 12th, unless it is modified or rescinded at an earlier date.

This State of Emergency is the sixth the Governor has issued due to COVID-19; issuance of the first was on March 13th, 2020.


3. DEW Begins Issuing Third Iteration of CARES Act Unemployment Benefits

Yesterday, the SC Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) announced that it has now begun paying Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) to South Carolinians. They have exhausted their current unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. The federal Coronavirus Aid, Response, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is the creator of the program.

According to the announcement:

PEUC provides an additional 13 weeks of state unemployment insurance benefits after the 20 weeks provided by South Carolina law have expired. This extension means that individuals could still be eligible to receive the financial support needed to sustain them in this time of uncertainty if they:

  • have exhausted all regular unemployment insurance benefit payments.
  • Had a benefit year-end after July 1st, 2019, but have not qualified for a new benefit year.
  • They are able and available for work and are actively seeking employment.
  • Are not eligible for unemployment benefits under any other state or federal program.

While many individuals have received state and federal benefits, not everyone will be eligible for PEUC. Some examples include:

  • Those who have the ability to telework with pay and would still be working substantially the same number of hours and be receiving the same compensation.
  • Those who are receiving paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits, and those benefits would exceed their weekly amount of PEUC.

Individuals who are eligible for PEUC could receive payments retroactive to the week ending April 4th, 2020, or the first week after they exhausted their regular UI, whichever is later. The extended benefits are available through the week ending December 26th, 2020. They will include weekly benefit amount plus the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) $600/week benefit through the week ending July 25th, 2020, which is when the FPUC funds expire.

The agency also released updated weekly unemployment numbers today:

  • For the week ending May 23rd, 24,950 people filed an initial claim.
  • This is a decrease of 4,496 initial claims from the week prior.
  • This is the 6th decrease recorded since mid-March.
  • In the last ten weeks, the total number of initial claims received is 540,545.
  • The agency has paid more than $1.5 billion in a combination of state unemployment insurance benefits and federal CARES Act programs.